By Richard Sykes
Huddersfield RUFC notched their first home win of their National 2 North season despite playing much of the second half with only 14 men.
The players showed great character and defeated Sheffield Tigers 31-27 in a scintillating game of rugby which also saw a possible try of the season with an incredible team move.
Huddersfield were leading 17-13 50 minutes into the game when their open side flanker, Liam Parfitt, was red carded having made contact with an opponent’s head in a tackle.
Parfitt’s dismissal could have tipped the balance of the finely poised game in Tigers’ favour but it served to strengthen the resolve of the home side, who showed their mettle and saw the match out in style.
The match started at a cracking pace, which was maintained throughout the first half. Tigers opened the scoring in the second minute when their No8, Tom Calladine, crashed over for the first of the game’s eight tries, following a drive from a 5 metre lineout. His try was converted by fly half Mark Ireland making the score 7-0 to Sheffield.
Field were not phased by the early set back and went swiftly into counter attack. Tigers weathered the onslaught and increased their lead to ten points, when Ireland landed his second successful kick, after Field were penalised for a high tackle.
Huddersfield opened their account on 17 minutes. When Tigers were penalised, a kick for touch put the home side within a few metres of their visitors line. The lineout was neatly tapped back and worked infield where fly half Joe Potter nipped smartly under the posts for the score, which Will Milner converted with ease to make it 10-7 to Sheffield.
Moments later another Ireland penalty extended Tigers’ lead but two tries in quick succession either side of the half hour mark, saw Field take the lead which they held onto until half-time.
Ethan Myers scored the first of them. When Huddersfield winger Kian Stewart grubbed the ball through the Tigers’ defensive line their full back knocked on. From the scrummage that followed the Huddersfield flanker barrelled over the line from short range.
Moments later Stewart crossed for a score which might very well qualify for the National League’s try of the season. Centre Lewis Workman started the move with a fine break from inside his own half. As play progressed up the left flank a series of mesmerising passing exchanges, involving Workman, Stewart, Lewis Bradley and Tom Hodson, was rounded off to perfection by Stewart.
Neither of the tries were converted and the score at half-time was 17-13 in Huddersfield’s favour.
The energetic pace of the game continued in a highly entertaining second half which saw the lead change hands four times.
Not long after Parfitt’s sending off the Tigers re-captured the lead. Calladine made a powerful break down the right and he offloaded to hooker George Anderson for a try which Ireland converted.
Having gone behind Huddersfield showed their grit with their slick play earning them the bonus point try. From a lineout on the Tigers’ 22 the ball was passed across the full width of the field. Stewart dotted down for the try in the left hand corner and Milner landed the difficult conversion. 24-20 to Huddersfield.
A try for the Tigers by Tom Taylor-Dawes from a driving maul and another fine conversion from their reliable fly half put Tigers back in the driving seat, three points ahead, with only ten minutes of the match remaining.
Huddersfield went back on the offence putting their opponents under pressure inside their own 22. Lock Eddie Brown made an excellent run and forced Tigers to concede a penalty in front of their posts. Field declined the opportunity to level the scores, choosing instead to maintain the pressure and go for the outright win.
Despite some resolute defending on their own line Tigers eventually succumbed to a try by powerful prop, Callum Thompson. Milner added the extras from a difficult angle.
From the re-start Field held on to possession for the remaining three minutes, to maintain control of the game, and see it out to a fitting conclusion of 31-27 to Huddersfield.
After the game Huddersfield backs coach Neil Ryan said: “What a rollercoaster of a game! I am really pleased for the lads, this result has been coming.
“We never stopped playing throughout the game and always looked dangerous. Towards the end of the game the decision making by skipper Lewis Bradley was calm, controlled and first class.
“To turn down a kickable penalty to tie the game and go on to win it shows what this group is all about. Character and belief.”